||Isaiah 42. 1 - 7
I don’t recall much of what was said when I was given the right hand of fellowship at my baptism over 20 years ago, but the one sentence I’ll never forget was the one said by the person I truly idolized. " Son, take no man for your example save Jesus Christ." This simple statement and its simple meaning doesn’t take away from its critical import. It points up problems that have plagued the church since it was organized in the first century. Contentions arose at that time in both Colosse and Corinth as to who they would follow, where some brethren claimed to be ‘of Paul’, others of ‘Apollos’, or ‘Cephas’ as well as Christ. Is Christ divided, preached Paul? (Cor 1. 11 - 13). The plain meaning of Paul’s admonition was a warning not to take any man for an example except for Christ, otherwise we risk disillusionment. |
We’d be wise, therefore, not to ally ourselves with any group or church where we pledge to follow the leader, or leaders, particularly when we recognize the unique bond each of us enjoys in Christ. This is not to disallow a relationship with our fellows, you understand, but allegiance to Christ takes precedence. The name of a church holds no magic. If you join a certain body of believers, it becomes easy to develop an insular, involuted mind that thinks the whole world revolves around his church. Dangers lie in group alliances. For one, there’s a risk you may tend to believe that your salvation is assured, and your faith, subverted by a strong minded leader or fixed liturgy, may foster a kind of smugness and blindness toward the outside world. This means that instead of a direct relationship between you and God–the word comes to you secondhand, through an intermediary, first to your leader, and then to you.
Secondly, group worship will oftentimes substitute tradition for truth. And this opens the way to major errors. Some of us see this, others don’t, and its influence is powerful and deceiving. Paul urged the Colossians to beware of being spoiled by philosophies and vain deceit–after the traditions of men (Col. 2. 8). Christ called the worship of the Pharisees vain, singling out their self serving interpretation of the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, telling them what they probably knew deep down, that they were teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. Be alert. Question everything; ‘Show me scripture and verse’–let this be your byword. If there exists a church that sheds a more revelatory light on the truth of the gospel, as a truth seeker, think to take that road. Face it. All roads don’t lead to the same destination. Better move on.
Christians need to cultivate a reverence for the awesome Jehovah, Yahweh. We must spend time and care nurturing a relationship with the Father–this is crucial. He has provided the powerful tool of prayer. We need to bless and not curse Him as Job was admonished to do in time of trouble. The Christian needs to be aware of human sufficiency, to know that God is able to stop suffering, but not question His not doing so. Although God brings fire, flood, war, disease, we need to recognize that we know God by analogy only, because He chooses it to be so. Behold, the goodness and severity of God. In His majesty God is inscrutable and his ways past finding out. A familiar problem that is past finding out is the answer to the question we’ve all asked ourselves. Why me? What have I done to receive God’s favor, and others not? For example, Dewey and Lawrence–what about them?
Dewey is a golf caddy in West Virginia
Dewey’s teeth have been recently drawn
Dewey has no money to replace them.
Dewey is the world’s best golf caddy;
He exists solely for your service and pleasure.
He takes pride in his work. Far more than I in mine
Dewey has nothing of this world’s goods
He loves to please you, but it’s not altruistic.
Lawrence is a barber
Takes great pride in his work
Does what you tell him
Has wife, mother-in-law, 4 children.
His pleasure is to work in his garden; his family.
Vacations every summer–7 in a 6-car sedan.
Cooks on the side of the road–stays in cheap motels
To better afford to show family the beauties of America.
I doubt Lawrence is a Christian.
Why not Lawrence?
We don’t know. No one can answer these questions. God knows, but His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts higher than mine. God is contradictory only because our view is limited. But He has committed to us His word of reconciliation–the Holy Bible–where, by Christ, we learn of His grace. A Christian can only be truly happy and be a worthwhile tool in the Master’s hands, if he can accept the grace of God through Christ. Not easy, because life teaches us we have to earn everything. But Christianity teaches otherwise–grace is God’s gift to man.
Consider the parable of the two men who went up to the temple to pray (Lk 18. 10 - 14). The Pharisee, full of boasting, set himself above other men. He was better than they were. He kept to the rules: he fasted, he tithed. The Publican, the hated tax collector, humbly prayed for God’s mercy, ‘to me, a sinner’. But it was the Publican who Christ justified–and who did nothing except acknowledge his sinfulness and his need for God. I believe that herein lies the way, the truth and the life